What are your options if you’re accused of assault (falsely or not)?
Unfortunately, sexual assault is a common problem. In Quebec, it’s estimated that one out of every three women has been the victim of sexual assault. Men are affected less often, but still aren’t immune to it. Statistics indicate that at least one in every six men will be the victim of sexual assault at some point in his lifetime.
The term sexual assault encompasses several different offenses of a similar nature:
- Indecent assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching
- Indecent exposure
- Child pornography
- Prostitution and solicitation, etc.
Accused, but not necessarily guilty
Regardless of the circumstances, when you’ve been accused of assault, you have the right to a full and complete defense. It’s up to the court to determine if the Crown has established the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Innocent people are sometimes falsely accused of assault. And the consequences are no less disastrous: reputational damage, financial losses, a long drawn-out legal process, etc.
In Canada, a person accused of committing a criminal act is presumed innocent until found guilty by a judge or jury. The presumption of innocence is one of the most important rights in the criminal justice system.
This presumption of innocence implies the following:
- That the accused doesn’t have to prove that he or she is innocent. It’s up to the prosecutor representing the government (the “Crown attorney”) to prove to the court that the accused has perpetuated the crime.
- That the prosecution must prove that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there isn’t sufficient proof that the accused is guilty, he or she must be found not guilty.
- That the judge or jury must exercise impartiality.
If you’ve been accused of assault, you have the following rights:
To seek the help of a lawyer
When you’re arrested, you have the right to speak with an attorney. Ideally, you should choose an experienced criminal lawyer. A defense attorney’s job is to do everything it takes to prevent a conviction or to obtain the lightest possible sentence.
Whether you’ve been falsely accused of assault or the accusations against you are based on fact, you have the right to be heard during a trial—or during sentencing in the event that you plead guilty or the court finds you guilty.
Furthermore, if you’re low-income, you may qualify for government-funded legal aid. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may be offered the services of a lawyer free of charge. You can also choose to represent yourself, but if you do, you must be very familiar with, and abide by, all applicable regulations.
To be informed of any existing proof
The ability to defend yourself adequately against the charges that have been brought is one of your fundamental rights. Therefore, you have the right to know all of the evidence that the prosecutor has gathered against you. The Crown attorney is required to disclose this information—including the names of all the persons who will testify against you—before the legal proceedings begin.
To remain silent
You may choose to remain silent at each stage of the legal process, from the time of your arrest through the end of the proceedings. Furthermore, choosing to remain silent isn’t tantamount to admitting guilt. The principle of this rule is based on the presumption of innocence mentioned above. Accused persons, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, cannot be forced to testify against themselves or incriminate themselves.
An experienced attorney to defend your rights
If you’ve been accused of assault, it’s important to act quickly by contacting a lawyer who can offer you the appropriate legal services to fit your particular situation. Criminal defense attorney Martine Thibodeau will offer you support at all times. For legal advice, constant support and a solid defense case, contact Martine Thibodeau today.
QUEBEC COALITION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT CENTERS (RQCALACS) Statistics. http://www.rqcalacs.qc.ca/statistics.php